Breed Specific Legislation (“BSL”) is, essentially, efforts used to restrict, ban and/or eliminate certain types of dogs, purebred or mixed. It can include anything from requiring special licensing of a breed (breed restriction) to the total ban of certain breeds.
Ontario’s province-wide ban targets 3 registered breeds of dogs: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. However, the term “pit bull” terrier was also incorporated into the Dog Owners’ Liability Act (“DOLA”) to mean “a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to those of dogs referred to …”. Therefore, mixed breed dogs possessing ANY of the physical characteristics can be labeled a “pit bull”. Thousands of mixed breed family dogs have fallen victim to this clause. The amendments to DOLA also increased penalties for owners by doubling fines up to $10,000.00, and allowing for jail sentences of up to six months.
There is no one qualified to determine the lineage of a mixed breed dog based solely on appearance. The law applies ‘reverse onus’ upon the dog owner who is forced to disprove what cannot be proven through expensive litigation, a resource that few can afford. Warrantless search and seizure allows for your dog to be removed without question to a municipal shelter to await a life or death decision and possible transfer to an animal research facility.
Under Breed Specific Legislation, owners of perceived “pit bulls” find themselves subjected to varying degrees of discrimination. Such discrimination and marginalization contribute to reducing the responsible dog owner to second class status in the eyes of public opinion. Moving to Ontario from another province or country means giving up your beloved family dog. Tourists traveling with their family dog to or through Ontario risk seizure by authorities. Military personnel transferred to Ontario postings must leave their dog behind.
Lack of knowledge and reliance upon media misrepresentation of facts, continue to perpetuate the myths of banning breeds.